By Dede Barry, T-Mobile Cycling Team
I am excited to be competing again, as I have not raced since early June. I was having some tendonitis problems that began in late June and as a result did not start the Giro d’Italia with my team. I rested my leg and took my time in allowing it to heal. It is hard to take time off the bike mid-season, as everyone is racing and it is easy to start worrying about falling behind with your fitness. I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason, though, and perhaps the rest was needed. In any case, I am happy to be racing my bike again and feeling fresh.
Thuringen Rundfahrt is a race I have done three times before, and it has let me see the dramatic transformation of this part of the former East Germany over the past 10 years. When I first came here in 1994, it was economically depressed; there were stores with nothing in them and very few restaurants. The teams were housed at a local school that was in rough condition, but the people were warm and friendly.
The mayor of the town had us for dinner at the city hall and explained to us his plans to revive the region economically. Each time I have returned since then, signs of improvement have been evident and life has become more comfortable for the people here. Upon arriving here this trip, we were excited to learn that we would be staying at a brand-new four-star hotel on a small lake outside of the city of Zeulenroda. It is beautiful and peaceful here and much more pleasant than the old school.
The race began last night with a 30km team time trial on a hilly, technical course. We practiced on it in the morning and had good sensations, so we planned to give it a nudge in the evening.
Unfortunately, it was pouring rain before the start, which made some of the turns a little scary. The team that started just ahead of us had all six girls laid out in the ditch alongside a tight turn; it was quite a sight when we came upon them. One of them nearly lost her entire skinsuit in the fal and was showing a lot of skin. Needless to say, we rode a little bit conservatively through the turns after seeing that, but we gave all our energy on the other sections.
When we finished, we were told we had the second fastest time, but later we learned that the timing system was broken and the times were inaccurate, so they ended up placing us fourth. We’re still not sure what any of the real times were, as the directors’ watches did not match up with the officials’ clocks. Anyhow, the German team, Nurnberger, won the race.
Today’s stage was hilly and the breakaway rode away from the peloton 20km into the race. We were happy with it, as we had two riders represented – Kim Bruckner and Kristin Armstrong – and the others in the 10-woman group were powerful.
A few kilometers later, Susanne Lungskog attacked on a cobbled hill; I followed her with two others and we made it across the gap quickly. The gap was about one minute at this point and the group was not in a good rhythm.
Nurnberger was chasing, as they had only one girl in the breakaway. The gap came down to 20 seconds at one point, but then we started driving it with the Colnago team and the gap swelled once again. We worked rather smoothly together, with several individuals sitting on the back.
With about 30km to go, we began attacking and the Russians joined in, but nothing was sticking off the front – every attempt was chased down. In the end, we sprinted to the line and Chantel Beltman won the stage. I think our gap was around six minutes and we are pleased to have had the three riders in the break, as it sets us up well for the days to come. The next few stages will be on courses similar to today, constantly undulating with some steep kickers.